The career as a metaphor concept offers a unified theoretical framework for the study of metaphor. This study of metaphors has not escaped careers scholars. Inkson(2006) defines career by comparing career to a metaphor of four components. Each metaphor comparer’s career to imagery that befits career as understood in that context. Still, Inkson provides a definition of career by evoking Arthur& Lawrence’s 1989 definition. This definition argues that career “is the evolving sequence of a person’s work experience overtime” (p.3). Inkson warns people of thinking of careers as their experiences in their work place. Instead, he says that careers transcend the boundary for work encapsulating the wider contexts of jobs, careers and other remnant influences. While explaining the meaning of careers, Ikson places focus on careers as a metaphor using four segments that include career as, resource, relationships, roles, and career as an action.
Understanding the concept of a career as a metaphor requires that one comprehends the meaning of metaphor. Many scholars treat a metaphor as undifferentiated figurative speech in language. However, some scholars have documented that metaphors are pluralistic, and their understanding depends on the level of conventionality of the society. A metaphor is a figure of speech in which distinctive qualities of a concept or entity are applied to another to provide clearer meaning. For example, one can say that the soldier is a lion in the battle. This means that the soldier possess lionlike characteristics such as bravery, strength, speed and others. The concept of metaphors raises an intriguing question when used in the business or organizational spectrum. My implication is that Inkson uses same basic mechanism as a comparison to project inference (Amundson, & Inkson, 2002).
The career as a resource proposes the understanding of career as a conglomeration of activities that make things happen in the society. Each career combines together with other careers to create goods and services for the society. The organizational perspective sets the welfare of organizations ahead of all other goals. Organizations achieve these goals through a combination of processes that include skill acquisition, combination, and management of human resources. Human resources management refers to the process of joining different careers for the sole purpose of providing a coherent team that meets the needs of any organization. The process of organizing people based on their skills transforms individuals and reduces them to substances entrusted with the responsibility of being a part of a large machine network for the success of the company. Similarly, career is a resource because the career embeds individuals with skills necessary to achieve personal goals such as finances, experience, family and expertise.
Inkson also views career as relationship. A relationship starts when an individual embarks on a lifelong love affair with his or her career. Like all relationships, some careers can be blissful while others can be full of thorns. The metaphor of career as a relationship also stems from the fact that careers are built on networks of relationships with others. In developing societies, careers are understood as family meditated entities. In developed western societies, forms and rhetoric encourage the acceptance of individual responsibility for their careers yet acknowledge the importance of social networks. Forbs Magazine writes top eight careers where relationships play an instrumental role in enhancing success. Forbes magazine writes that some careers are built on people’s ability to build relationships with others, have an excellent mastery of networking and their charm. These types of careers require that the employees have a formidable client base that they maintain over a specific period. They require that an individual be personable, remembering details, confident and keen on intrapersonal skills. These careers include but are not limited to real estate agents, mortgage broker, family spokesperson, financial planner, commission salesperson, politician among others (Fontevecchia, 2011). According to Schein (2009), corporate culture refers to shared beliefs, values, and behaviors that a firm subscribes. These beliefs, values, and expected behavior provide a foundation upon which a firm is managed. The organizations executives articulate cultural statements to the workers. Usually, firms with a strong corporate culture outperform those without a strong corporate culture. Because culture is relative, organizations have the power to create a culture that fits organizations objectives. Corporate culture plays out in various ways. A company’s culture can be distinct in ways such as the way they handle communication, feedback, project coordination, or customer relations (Kotter, 1992). Companies with strong corporate culture have a low rate of employee turnover. This is because the employees have a driving philosophy that makes the work purposeful. The idea is finding a sense of purpose and not money. The corporate culture creates a relationship that bonds workers hence forming a family.
Career can also be examined in the context of roles, particularly social roles that define vocational behavior. (Mangham & Overington, 1987) used the theater as a metaphor for describing the organization by evoking images of themes, plots, costumes, and styles. Under this category, careers take the place of a play or performance and career management becomes a performing art. Similarly, the career is reduced as a role behavior. The role of an individual is speculated on account of their employers, supervisors, and everybody who is in charge at the work place. Normally, the organizations expectations play an instrumental role in shaping the style in which people play different roles in a career. Role theory is helpful for understanding issues that come with work such as role conflict and bottlenecks accruing from extended overtime, different values, and approaches. Like a well acted play, staffing plays an instrumental role in binding a company and reducing employee turnover. In order for staffing to be effective, there will be a need to have staff members that have the required requisite for tasks that they perform. There will also a sizeable deal of flexibility that creates room for staff members to help one another when there is a need. This means that the team must be diverse to cover for all aspects such as gender, race, body shape and experience in different fields. In summary, the career takes the place of lifelong artistic performance that has a conglomeration of scriptwriters, directors and complex characterization.
The article “When a New Manager Takes Charge” by John Gabbaro explores what happens when there is a change of leadership at the management levels of companies. Gabbaro’s article documents why some managers are successful with the transition while others flop. In general, he documents that most managers take a relatively longer period to adapt to the requirements of the new work environments. The article makes a case that, managers experience, play a critical role in the success in the process of transition using examples from American and European managers. Managers with experience of working in different environments take a relatively shorter time to take charge while workers with limited take the longest time to take charge. In addition to work experience, Gabbaro also argues that managerial techniques and leadership models also accounts for smooth or rough transition. He disregards the existence of the common belief in the all-purpose manager. In Gabbbaro’s views, the transition process is a combination of factors that hugely depend on the style of leadership, experience and the nature of the job. The corporate culture also determines how successful the transition can be. However, Gabbbaro’s article examines something rather deep that managerial mishap. I think that Gabbarro’s article documents the role of action in the career. It is archetypal of the concept of action as career. Inkson (2004) documented that career as action is a metaphor that highlights the characteristics of different approaches of career that people take. For example, other people have a more hands on approach on their career while others an are more laid back (p.77) Still, action determines the self expression, agency, and leadership attributes that different people take.
In conclusion, I do not think that there is a metaphor that succinctly defines career. However, I think that a combination of the metaphors unconditionally give meaning to the understanding of a career.
Amundson, N., & Inkson, K. (2002). Career Metahphors and their Application in Emplyment Counselling. Journal of Employment Counselling, vol.39(13), 98-108.
Fontevecchia,, A. (2011, June 20). 8 Careers Built On Relationships. Retrieved August 20, 2012, from Forbes website: http://www.forbes.com/sites/investopedia/2011/06/20/8-careers-built-on-relationships/2/
Gabarro, John. (1985) “When a New Manager Takes Charge.” 2009Harvard Business Review 1-114. Print.
Inkson, K. (2004). Images of career: Nine key metaphors. Journal of Vocational Behaviour, 65(00).
Inkson, K. (2006). Understanding Careers: The Metaphors of Working Lives. NY: SAGE.
Kotter, J. (1992). Corporate Culture and Performance. London, UK: Simon and Schuster.
Mangham,, I., & Overington,, M. A. (1987). Organizations as theatre: A Social Psychology of Dramatic Appearances. Chichester, UK: Wiley.
Schein, E. (2009). The Corporate Culture Survival Guide. Chicago: John Wiley & Sons.